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One of my colleagues on the design staff at Google Ventures recently wrote an article that featured this lovely pullquote: “It’s not uncommon for designers to confuse a beautiful looking product with one that works beautifully.” How true.

I love beautiful things. I have lovely designer furniture in my house, I own more fancy shoes than I’d care to admit, I have a magnificent-looking dog, and… you get the idea. When I’m designing apps, identities, and interfaces I have a predilection to create beautiful looking products.

Particularly since coming to Google a year ago, I’ve been chewing over the place for beauty where it applies to branding. I now work at a ginormous company that is fronted by a sort of shockingly designed logo that’s full of bevels, shadows, oddly shaped characters, and painted with a… uh… curiously chosen palette.

I’ve met many designers both inside and outside Google who would just love to get their hands on that logo and flatten/color/alter/edit/replace it. This would certainly satisfy our egos as designers, but would it actually create a better identity?

The current identity is wonderfully unassuming and truly unique. It certainly doesn’t look like it was created by a marketing team with an army of designers and focus groups. It exudes geekiness. It eschews manipulation. To me it screams: “Google is honestly a bunch of geeks who just want to make awesome software that makes your life better.”

Another example to consider is the Walmart brand. Only a truly brave designer would choose heaps of dull grey, burgundy, and navy for a brand. Let alone facing about 8500 gigantic stores in asphalt shingles and cinder blocks. Every designer I’m familiar with would have come up with something more akin to Target’s hip(per) look. Yet, when you’re speeding down an eight lane freeway, there’s no doubt whatsoever that the “ugly” Walmart store that sits miles away on the horizon contains the cheapest frozen chicken you’ll find anywhere in your region.

Wonderfully designed > beautifully designed. Any day.

PS: It feels like this article is just the tip of an iceberg. The real meat here is the “why?”. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to percolate on it, ideally with your input, and explore this further in the future. Please do tweet to @dburka with your own thoughts.

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